GCSE Options - impact on Oxbridge application

(85 Posts)
NL3 Wed 13-Jan-10 11:13:26

DS1 is in Yr9 of a state comp. Quite bright - but also quite lazy.

We have to choose his GCSE options soon and I have a couple of questions that I hope someboby can answer.

Do your options at GCSE have any impact on your chances of gaining admission to Oxford or Cambridge?

Are any courses perceived as "soft" options similar to the list at A-level that top universities won't count?

Is it ok to choose solely academic subjects?

Any advice on this specific list -

English Language and Literature
Triple Science

Thanks in advance for any help

TheArsenicCupCake Wed 13-Jan-10 11:23:38

DS1 wants to do the Oxbridge thing .. he took his options last year.. before we did this we had a look at the oxford and cambridge web site for the subject he wants to read ( law in his case).. there is a lot of info on the sites.

anyhoo.. he has taken and some that he has to take ( if it helps)
english lit language and media
triple science as an extra to the core science
resistant materials

he already took some gcse's early last year and and this year and so is doing as level that are available to him in statistics..
A levels he is considering
English ( not sure which)
chemistry / physics/biology ( not sure which).

he's been advised not to take a level law

He will also be sitting spanish as an extra language.

hth .. but have a look on their webby pages..

senua Wed 13-Jan-10 11:27:17

Because "everyone" gets AAA at A Level, Universities are increasingly looking at GCSE to help sort the wheat from the chaff. I can't remember the figure but there is a sort of benchmark for GCSE at Oxbridge (something along the lines of at least 6 A grade) so make sure that he takes subjects in which he will excel. Having said that, "everyone" has a list of A grade academic subjects so if he can throw in something 'interesting' it will give the poor interviewer something to talk about!

I believe that Economics is one of those strange subjects which is considered rigorous at University level but micky mouse at GCSE.

TheArsenicCupCake Wed 13-Jan-10 11:38:45

ohh just want to add that for ds1.. ( can't remember if it was oxford or cambridge).. but they wanted 9 A A*s at GCSE.

barring just the acedemic bits.. DS1 also has interesting ouside school things going on, Judo, DofE, Sea Cadets, the arts etc.


NL3 Wed 13-Jan-10 11:44:52

Thanks to you both for the information - I wasn't educated in this country and find it a bit of a minefield when it comes to things like this. Thanks for the comment about Economics - I wondered about that - it must be similar to sociology which was also one that I had crossed off the list.

abra1d Wed 13-Jan-10 12:02:33

CItizenship is probably best avoided.

CMOTdibbler Wed 13-Jan-10 12:06:42

RE, citizenship, and economics don't really add much, so I'd be wanting to think about swapping those. What for, depends on what he wants to study at Uni really.

GooseyLoosey Wed 13-Jan-10 12:09:04

Not an admissions tutor for an oxbridge college, but wnet to one and dh has been an admissions tutor for a Russell group uni.

I kind of think that if it is a subject which would not have been around 40 years ago, then you should avoid it.

Am a lawyer and definitely agree that A level law is not helpful.

Also agree that helpful to look on university websites and even ask admissions officies.

NL3 Wed 13-Jan-10 12:13:59

Thanks for the further information - unfortunately he's pretty awful at things like art, music, drama - so none of those options are an option. He wants to read Philsophy or History at Uni and then perhaps a law conversion. He will probably opt for English Lit, History, and Philosophy at A Level. I just don't want to do anything wrong now that could impact on future choices.

CMOTdibbler Wed 13-Jan-10 12:21:55

If he wants to do History, can he do latin GCSE ? My historian friend has been disadvantaged through not having latin, so I'm guessing it would be well worth it.

Piffle Wed 13-Jan-10 12:29:02

DS1 took advice and has done
Maths Stats
IT (half course already in yr10
HE got A and A*

Yr 11 now and is taking
Higher maths
Triple Science
Double English
Mandarin (as twilight after school course)
Res Mats (tech)
Compulsory half course RE

In addition he is doing a free standing Maths qualification

That said he now said he does not want to go to Oxbridge and wants to do some kind of web design/graphic design/architecture type thing

A levels touted thus far

Piffle Wed 13-Jan-10 12:31:45

i think philosophy is considered soft, sorry iirc

bruffin Wed 13-Jan-10 14:16:25

DS is yr 9 and his science teacher says he should be looking at oxbridge for sciences. We were told that it's not only exam results but they are now starting to look further and further back into their educational history and also extra curicular work. We were told to start preparing now. He choses his options in March.

snorkie Wed 13-Jan-10 14:39:29

It looks like a good set of choices to me. The first 10 are all solid academic subjects covering all the basics and separate science, two languages (highly regarded) and 2 good humanities. On their own those 10 would set him up well for most courses, so I don't think the last three being potentially soft matters at all. RE/Citizenship are mandatory in some places, so their 'softness' doesn't matter.

The only thing I would say is that some Engineering, Architecture courses are supposed to favour having a DT or Art type option. Even Dentistry likes to see something that demonstrates good fine motor control I'm told. So long as those aren't things he's likely to consider doing he's probably best playing to his strengths and sticking with his current choices, rather than risking a lower grade in a subject he's not keen on or especially good at.

ElephantsAndMiasmas Wed 13-Jan-10 15:18:09

Sounds good to me, RE and French will probably help if does either history or philosophy. The others are good "normal" academic subjects - what does he think about it? is there anything he esp wants to do that's not on the list?

As others have said don't forget out of school activities - I went to an oxbridge college and tbh there were people there who had probably just sat at home and done homework every night. But a lot more people had been involved in stuff both within school (e.g. mentoring, school counsel, activities like orchestra etc) and out of school. Nothing in particular i think, just be directed by his interests. If he's interested in history for instance he cuold volunteer at a museum, or on an archeological dig, or recording old people for an oral history project or something.

Lilymaid Wed 13-Jan-10 15:30:40

NL3 - Definitely avoid Economics GCSE though it is fine for AS/A2 (avoid Law for both GCSE and AS/A2). Citizenship wouldn't be well thought of either. English is better done as two subjects - not sure whether here it is a combined course. If you had to choose two out of three from History, Geography and RE, History and Geography would be better - but perhaps RE is compulsory?
TheArsenicCupCake - English Literature is better thought of than English Language as an A2 subject.

Trinity College Cambridge produces a list of A Level "soft subjects" which is more detailed than the Cambridge University list and which may be of help.

MillyR Wed 13-Jan-10 16:04:09

The free standing maths qual sounds interesting Piffle. Was it recommended to you? How different is it from GCSE and A level Maths/

ShrinkingViolet Wed 13-Jan-10 16:10:01

the FMQ is like the old Additional Maths O level, and covers some of the same stuff as AS Maths, but in a different way, and the exam is very different to GCSE - DD1 moaned because for the FMQ she had to remember all her formulae, but in the GCSE she got given them all. According to an ex-pupil now doing Maths at Warwick who came back to talk to the current lot, the FMQ was the most difficult maths exam he's sat. It's pretty well regarded AFAIK.

Lilymaid Wed 13-Jan-10 16:32:24

DS1 did Freestanding Maths in Y11 after doing GCSE in Y10 - school thought it helped transition from GCSE to AS/A2.

bellissima Wed 13-Jan-10 16:38:14

I was advised to do maths rather than economics for A level in order to do economics (with history) at Oxford. I think maths is better regarded as they teach economics to A level and beyond in the first couple of terms.

fritzzwicky Wed 13-Jan-10 16:41:51

Lilymaid, interesting that you say Economics is fine at AS/A level although not at GCSE. I'm relieved - ds has chosen Economics as an AS/A level subject, and hopes to try for Oxbridge. He's also doing Maths, Further Maths and History, so we hope the combo will be solid enough.

fritzzwicky Wed 13-Jan-10 17:08:23

Oh, and I missed off Physics. Maths and Further Maths somehow count as one choice at his school. That Trinity College link is v useful, thanks for that!

pantomimecow Wed 13-Jan-10 17:48:19

Is music GCSE regarded as soft ?

snorkie Wed 13-Jan-10 17:59:17

music is not supposed to be regarded as soft at GCSE, but if you exclude the time spent to get proficient enough at an instrument for the performance side of it I think it is quite an easy option. At A level, music is OK but Music Technology is soft I'm told.

MillyR Wed 13-Jan-10 18:24:56

DS will be able to do GCSE Maths and GCSE Additional Maths. Does anyone know how additional Maths compares to freestanding Maths. Is it worth doing both? Sorry to go on about this but I am very interested and have not heard of it.

Lilymaid Wed 13-Jan-10 22:12:10

Economics is definitely fine for AS/A2 - both DSs took it and have had no problems in getting into decent universities. I don't think you'd find it on the "soft" A Level list for any universities.

snorkie Wed 13-Jan-10 22:57:13

DD is thinking of the following options:
English Lang
English Lit
Sciences (3 separate)
Geography or Business Studies
Japanese (as a twilight subject)

She may also have to do French, but is hoping to wriggle out of it as she's not that great at languages, but really wants to do Japanese (she will do both if she's not allowed to drop French).

She's quite bright, but dyslexic. Doubt she'll be trying for Oxbridge, but I obviously want her to keep as many options open as possible. I'm trying to gently suggest that Geography would be a better choice than BS, am I right?

Lilymaid, people were saying economics was OK at A level but soft at GCSE (I think RE is supposed to be like that too). All I know about economics GCSE is that very few schools offer it.

seeker Thu 14-Jan-10 05:52:07

Dd's school seem to regard Expressive Arts and Art as the most rigorous of the "Kids from Fame/touchy-feely" options.

weegiemum Thu 14-Jan-10 06:06:14

<professional hat on>
Snorkie, I am talking as a Geog teacher here, but I would say Geog was a much better option than BS for A-level, unless she is especially interested in going into something businessy at Uni. Geog is a good wide ranging subject for both arts and sciences and (IIRC, its a long time since I looked at the English curriculum as am in Scotland) has a healthy dose of statistics etc which also come in handy later.

Plus - if she is dyslexic then the more graphic nature of Geog can be useful - certainly at amy last school (not currently teaching!) we encouraged dyslexic pupils into Geog (rather than History, for example) as they often found it more manageable - could draw a diagram rather than write a paragraph, IYSWIM. In fact, the department had a theory that the dyslexic pupils were actually better at this side of the subject than those who were more long winded with their written answers!

ShrinkingViolet Thu 14-Jan-10 08:28:36

generally anything with "studies" in its title is regarded as a less academic subject (exception being Religious Studies at A level I believe).

snorkie Thu 14-Jan-10 08:57:22

I'm not too worried if BS is a bit soft. Most of her other subjects aren't, so that should be OK especially if she gets a higher grade in it as a result. But that's interesting what you say about Geog being recommended for dyslexics weegie I'll definately pass that message on (it's GCSE we're talking about here not A level, but I assume the same applies).

TheArsenicCupCake Thu 14-Jan-10 12:22:03

Snorkie.. DS1 ( and 2) are both dyslexic.. DS1 has just seen this as something to be tackled and overcome.. where as ds2 is highly effected by it ( their dad and I are both dyslexic.. and both of us have degrees, careers ( he's a teacher) but I see no reason not to try for oxbridge if that is what your DD would like to do.. ). So I guess it depends on how her dyslexia effects her.


fritzzwicky Thu 14-Jan-10 13:22:21

Thanks for that reassurance re Economics at As/A level, Lilymaid. Sorry if I hijacked slightly off the GCSE focus!

Piffle Thu 14-Jan-10 13:30:50

snorkle why is the thinking of Japanese if languages are not liked?
I was a very gifted linguist, French, Latin, Spanish, Russian, some Arabic but Japanese was soooo very hard!

The FSMQ as ds1 is doing it is basically read the textbook and sit the exam! It is hard, very hard!
It is not taught per se.
The 4 top kids at maths were given it, ds1 was left out as he has a very hefty GCSE course load compared to others
( doing Art and Mandarin) but he asked and they included him.

MIFLAW Thu 14-Jan-10 13:33:12

Went to Oxford in 1992 and did the entrance exam for Modern Languages.

My impression then was GCSEs didn't really count for much either way, as long as you had the requisite passes for matriculation (maths, English, a science and a foreign lang at A-C, I believe, but do check - 14 years is a long time).

To a lesser extent, your choice of A levels only mattered insofar as there were 3 "proper" subjects, potential for high grades, you were shit hot on the subject(s) you were actually going to study and you had a good interview.

I'm sure now that a Fellow will tell me that's all wrong and I got in because someone liked my tie ...

MIFLAW Thu 14-Jan-10 13:34:38

They always said, too, that having three A levles that were a good "fit" with each other (eg not woodwork, pony trekking and Ancient Greek) made you a better candidate, but then school teachers say a lot of things.

snorkie Thu 14-Jan-10 14:53:53

Piffle, the Japanese is something she wants to do (not sure exactly why, but she does tend to be drawn to different and rather non-conformist subjects). She signed herself up to the classes nearly a term late and has worked really hard to catch up with the others - I've not seen her so fired up about anything for a while. I actually think it may be more suited to her than French as it seems to be a very phonetic, rule-based language whereas French is very irregular. The Japanese seems to be well taught and she has a good raport with the teacher also.

The maths sounds good - wish my ds had the opportunity to do it, he is spending this year treading water in maths again (but looking forward to starting A level maths + f. maths next year).

senua Thu 14-Jan-10 15:14:58

MIFLAW: you are out of date on Languages. Since a Language is no longer compulsory at KS4, a lot of schools have dropped Language GCSEs. The ones who have kept Languages tend to be Grammar, independent or leafy suburb. Oxbridge has therefore been bounced into having to drop the requirement, lest they appear elitist.

PixieOnaLeaf Thu 14-Jan-10 15:17:37

My brother in law interviews for one of the big Oxbridge colleges.

He says that GCSEs should not be taken for 'Oxbridge purposes' and instead should be taken because the pupil is enthusiastic and enjoys learning them.

Increasingly, he says, they are looking for students who can bring something else to the University: many students achieve three 'As' and, although it is something to be proud of, it is no longer something which gives such immediate access.

He looks for students who look at the world with a different perspective, have created lots of opportunities for themselves and relish the challenge of going to a good University.

He says that he can often tell who has applied for Oxbridge because they think it is prestigious and only want to attend to add prestige to their CV and those whose lifelong love of learning has guided them towards Oxbridge as it is the right place for them. He would rather meet a student who has come to this realisation later than 'someone who has been groomed and prepared for the interview since the age of four.'.

Just thought you might be interested grin!

MIFLAW Thu 14-Jan-10 16:21:27

There you go, I stand corrected.

I would still be surprised if Oxbridge cared overly much about GCSE options, though, unless every single one was in pony trekking, tagging and retail studies.

bruffin Thu 14-Jan-10 19:03:10

"he looks for students who look at the world with a different perspective"

That's what DS's teachers say about him and why his science teacher feels he would be a good candidate.

PixieOnaLeaf Sat 16-Jan-10 18:34:40

And, yet again, I kill the thread grin!

sarah293 Sat 16-Jan-10 18:52:31

'I can't remember the figure but there is a sort of benchmark for GCSE at Oxbridge (something along the lines of at least 6 A grade)'

Doesn't seem to be the case. dd only has 6 GCSE's and one is a C and she has been offered a place at Cambridge. They went on the essays she submitted and her interview and the fact se spent years being home edded. She interviews well.

PixieOnaLeaf Sat 16-Jan-10 20:31:05

Riven, well done to your DD - what does she want to read?

There are all sorts of myths flying around about Oxbridge - what they do and don't do, what will give you the 'edge', that if you begin preparing early enough, you are bound to get a place. 'Tis all rubbish.

If you are a good candidate, then they will offer you a place, if you aren't, they won't. Simple as.

sarah293 Sat 16-Jan-10 20:33:08

Why is is 'reading' at Oxbridge but 'taking' everywhere else?

PixieOnaLeaf Sat 16-Jan-10 20:44:38

Personally, I'd say 'reading' for anywhere - my friend's son is 'reading' Maths at Leeds. I don't know why other people make the distinction.

sarah293 Sun 17-Jan-10 09:47:08

I'd never heard it until I was visiting Oxford and someone asked me what I'd 'read' at university. I said books blush in a puzzled way so dh explained what it meant.
Then ha dot own up to going to a Poly grin

arionater Sun 17-Jan-10 12:44:12

NL3 - the list looks fine. I work at one half of "Oxbridge" at the moment and was at the other one until recently; I've interviewed at both and I can't remember ever querying a GCSE subject choice in itself, and certainly not for someone doing a good range with plenty of strong academic choices in there. We are aware that how many GCSEs people take, and how "academic" the options are is often determined by the school, so we try not to judge by it if to do so would be unfair.

What does matter is the grades he gets in them: almost all candidates have all As/A*s at GCSE and either have or are predicted all As at A-levels. That doesn't mean you can't get in with the odd GCSE B or C in a less relevant subject - that's what interviews and so on are for - but it is noted. (And again, placed in the context of a school - an Etonian with a single B and only a few A*s is, obviously, a much dodgier candidate than someone with less good grades from a much less good school.)

In short: 'soft' subjects can work against you at A-level, where you only have a few to choose, but I really wouldn't worry about it at GCSE. It matters more that he enjoys it and that his interest in his subjects leads to him reading around, thinking about how subjects connect, etc.

gramercy Sun 17-Jan-10 18:08:11

But to get to the nitty gritty, would, say, 6 As and 2Bs in traditional 'difficult' subjects trump 8 As including subjects such as Computing, Dance and Citizenship?

I have the fear that all the admissions department sees is the 8As.

(I know now people do up to 13 GCSEs - in my day there was a limit of 8 O Levels.)

loungelizard Sun 17-Jan-10 21:07:59

I would imagine the traditional subjects would definately trump the 'soft' subjects.

I don't think the admissions dept just see the 8 As or whatever, but, as said before, they do take into account the schools attended, ie some schools may not offer enough traditional subjects for a pupil to get 8 A/A*s in them.

My DCs' school is very successful in getting pupils to Oxbridge and as far as I can see the Oxbridge colleges are scrupulously fair in their admissions procedures.

snorkie Mon 18-Jan-10 12:04:16

senua and MIFLAW. On modern languages it is true that Oxford & Cambridge recently dropped the GCSE modern language requirement, however it does seem that that requirement is beginning to creep back in at some places. For example UCL states that:

"For 2012 entry, UCL will require a GCSE Modern Language at grade C or above for all of its programmes. For the minority of students that will not have had an opportunity to study a GCSE Modern Language, UCL will provide opportunities to meet the language requirement once enrolled at UCL."

gramercy Mon 18-Jan-10 12:30:27

What about subjects such as Greek and Latin that are only offered at some institutions? Do they get you more Brownie points?

I think it is very unfair (as has been discussed on other threads) that lack of opportunity to study certain subjects, let alone French - which seems a basic part of a normal person's education - can act against you.

It's one thing choosing to study Mickey Mouse GCSEs and quite another being forced to take them because that's all on offer.

webwiz Mon 18-Jan-10 13:35:23

Its amazing the amount of variety between schools in the way they allow options to be chosen - right from insisting on a specialism subject (PE or technology), choosing subjects in year 8 and offering a vast array of "modern" subjects. I'm quite relieved that my DC's school actually offer very little choice. English x 2, Maths, Science x2 (or 3), RE, a language and ICT short course were all compulsory. That left 3 choices which was enough to follow an area of interest without going too much off track. I'm hoping that when DS chooses next year it will be the same.

My friends DC go to a school that offers a massive amount of choice in options - she was given the weekly timetabled hours and then invited to "fill in" the choices with only English, Maths and Science x 2 compulsory. So rather than using columns they had the hours per subject for both full and short course GCSEs for all the other subjects and as her DD couldn't make up her mind what to do she has taken lots of short courses which can cause problems if you want to take the A level afterwards.

ShrinkingViolet Mon 18-Jan-10 13:40:50

DD1 is slightly concerned that she'll be "marked down" for having done Media Studies - as an extra in Y10 for the top English set. I'm trying to reassure her that it won't make any difference (she has another 10 GCSEs at A/A*), and the fact that she did it a year early will make it obvious it was done as an extra. Am I right do you think?

webwiz Mon 18-Jan-10 13:50:42

I wouldn't worry ShrinkingViolet - DD2 took Dance GSCE in year 10 and got a B but she has another 10 GCSEs at A/A* so I'm presuming she doesn't need to bin the Oxford application on the strength of it grin

Builde Mon 18-Jan-10 15:53:23

Interesting that Oxbridge doesn't ask for a modern language anymore...surely most schools offer modern languages. All the ones around us do.

Infact, my old comp. offers a choice of 6 languagues at GCSE level: French, Spanish, Latin, German, Russian, Japanese. Some of them aren't timetabled and you have to do them in after school clubs.

If music GCSE if regarded as 'soft' then it must have changed. I spent far longer composing the music for my GSCE than I probably devoted to maths, physics, chemistry and biology put together.

Builde Mon 18-Jan-10 15:54:51

I don't think any of your child's choices will have an impact...Cambridge is more interested in aptitude and enthusiasm than the exact set of GCSEs you've done.

I did 13 GCSEs and I'm not sure it impressed them; they were more interested in my A-level results.

qumquat Tue 19-Jan-10 16:17:50

I think that often it's not that a subject is considered as 'soft' but that it isn't relevant to the Oxford/Cambridge course. Eg. on that Trinity College link it said they preferred English Literature to Language, I Think it's likely this is because Cambridge offers only an English Literature course, in which case the choice to just study Language at A level and then apply to do English at Cambridge would seem a bit odd. Equally the Modern Languages course are incredibly Literature heavy, so if you don't show an interest in literature in your A level choices you probably won't like the course.

I went to Cambridge and my impression was that academic ability was assumed, the way that you could set yourself apart at interview was to show passion and enthusiasm for your chosen subject, learning in general, and whatever extra-curricular activities turn you on. I disagree with the previous poster who siad good candidates get in and bad candidates don't. Sadly plenty of good candidates don't get in as practically everyone who applies is a good candidate (this was also the opinion of my Cambridge tutor, who did not enjoy having to choose between all the good candidates!).

calvi Thu 18-Mar-10 21:12:28


DS has chosen Physics for As and continuing iwth Economics,Maths and History at A2. He wants to study either History and Economics or Economics and Management at Oxford. In your or anyone elses opinion are these wise choices - presumably he can only talk knowledgably about the subjects at interview if he has studied them at advanced level?

Milliways Sat 20-Mar-10 22:47:37

They sound good to me Calvi.

Re Economics at GCSE, DS's (very high ranking) Grammar school offers this as well as Business studies, which really surprised me as I thought them both "soft". They were adamant that with all the compulsory subjects these were fine, and no by taking them had had any Uni offer compromised (and they do have a high Oxbridge result).

DD took 11 GCSE's, 7 Compulsory subjects (triple science, Maths, Eng Lang & Lit, Philosophy & Ethics) + 4 options of Geography, History & 2 languages. She is now at Cambridge. She is also aware that a lot of her friends at other Uni's have a lot more free time & "life"-so make sure you really are dedicated to you subject as the workloads are very intense.

lazymumofteenagesons Sat 20-Mar-10 23:30:17

Milliways - your daughter's comments are very interesting. My son decided not to try for Cambridge saying it was too intense and he didn't want to spend the next 3 years working his socks of with little social life. I just thought he was being lazy. But maybe he actually knew this environment would not suit him.

ruggermum Sun 21-Mar-10 17:38:09

My DS might be an outside chance for Oxbridge but I looked at the amount of work expected of them and thought it was too much. I asked if there was any sort of concession for anyone playing for first XV and they said not. I would prefer it if DS went somewhere less intense that allowed time for his rugby (which is his true passion). If he wants to go then I will support him but I am not going to try to persuade him.

calvi Fri 26-Mar-10 22:41:15

Starting to panic - DS was supposed to have his form in on Friday and has now changed his mind and wants to do AS Politics and not Physics as he says it interests him and not interested in pursuing three other subjects that he is predicted to get A*s for at GCSE. Is Politics a 'soft' option?

I am already concerned that he is restricting his options at A Levels given that Oxford don't even require him to have A Level Economics (again he says it interests him). What happens if he decides that he doesn't like Economics in the first year or finds that he is not so good at it - is he doomed?

gerontius Fri 26-Mar-10 23:04:57

Politics is a bit soft. Someone I know who teaches it claimed you couldn't learn anything from it you couldn't from reading a broadsheet.

loungelizard Sat 27-Mar-10 11:17:12

What does he want to study? My DN been offered place at Oxford (for English) and Politics is one of his A2s. Is he looking to apply for PPE?

calvi Sat 27-Mar-10 15:04:58

Yes loungelizard - PPE or one of the other economics combinations. I was told by one person in admissions that another subject might be better but another one said it was fine. I am getting edgy!!

loungelizard Sat 27-Mar-10 15:56:34

Perhaps its the combination of Economics and Politics?? Perhaps he should do one or the other but not both. The Oxford website gives lots of detailed information about admissions.

abride Sat 27-Mar-10 16:04:12

NL3--your list looks good as it is, what with three sciences and two languages, the two Englishes, history.

bloss Sun 28-Mar-10 12:58:49

Message withdrawn

MrsMattie Sun 28-Mar-10 13:03:58

I would echo what Pixie says (may have a little inside knowledge myself wink).

calvi Mon 29-Mar-10 19:27:16

Re AS: Economics dept at Oxford have said basically that they encourage students to take the subjects which interest them the most in order to achieve the highest possible grades.

DS's school had 22 oxbridge acceptances last year (is that good for a state grammar?) and they have advised Politics is fine - so DS will take it at AS and we will keep our fingers crossed!

gerontius Mon 29-Mar-10 19:31:19
Phoenix17 Fri 02-Apr-10 18:30:11

DS is choosing GCSE options is strong on sciences and aspiring to Oxbridge - he has not got a language on his option list. I know Oxbridge and most unis don't officially require a language - can anyone shed light on how an application would be regarded? He is bright and all teachers predicting A/A* except perhaps Eng. lang. as he is dyslexic

gerontius Sat 03-Apr-10 00:27:23

UCL from 2012 onwards will require a language at GCSE, as Edinburgh mostly does at the moment.

PeterT Tue 04-May-10 12:49:10

Having a daughter now at Oxford and two sons one 16 and the other 14 and about to start GSCE courses next year we (my wife & I) have similar concerns and perhaps some insight.

Points I would like to make:

Strongly agree with those who suggest looking at University entrance requirements now as they can be subtly different and may affect choices.

I think that exact subjects is not so important at GCSE as long as only one or two are not traditional academic subjects. It matters a lot more at A level.

The universities like to see consistently high grades. Nowadays 7 A* is considered a good starting point for a popular subject at a top university. Getting A*s in maths and English is particularly important. Where competition is particularly high even B grades are a disadvantage - much better not to take the subject at all if it is not a core one.

Better to sit fewer GCSEs and get more A* results. Our daughter only took 9 GCSEs but got A* in all of them and this got her the maximum mark (100%) for her GCSE results when applying to Oxford to do medicine. Doing ten GCSEs with 9 A* and 1 A would have got her 90%! However doing 10 subjects is probably about right. Subjects taken early would not have been counted so it may be best to avoid this dilution.

Hope this helps.

calvi Wed 05-May-10 20:34:23

Thanks PeterT - DS's son did not give an option to drop any subjects but realise now why a friend's DS dropped Chemistry at his independent after getting a poor mock GCSE result. Wish I had known about this before. I guess his school is more interested in their league table position - I am depressed now!!

AbbyLubber Wed 12-May-10 13:11:21

Not sure if anyone has said this... I am an Oxford admissions czarina, and Religious Studies is just another subject with 'studies' on the end.. .... Trinity Cambridge's list is pretty much the consensus.

williamagh Wed 21-Nov-12 21:22:16

hello, new member message...
Single dad, being lateral and seeking advice from wise women.
Browsed yr chat but need definitive answers please.
1) How to advise no1 girl (13yrs) on GCSE choices - what excludes what?
2) Mixing Arts and Sciences - what do colleges think?
3) Career impact of GCSE choices (if any)

Tricccky Wed 21-Nov-12 21:47:52

Interesting. I did combined Eng Lang/Lit at GCSE (advised against above). And English Lang at A Level (on Trinity College's soft list). I got into 'Oxbridge' though. So nothing's concrete. More important to do things you'll be very good at and can talk about with passion (and demonstrate extended reading etc) at an interview. May also depend on the college you're interested in as well I would imagine. That was 15 yrs ago though so perhaps things are more difficult now.

Namechangeforapropertythread Wed 21-Nov-12 21:59:50

Just for clarification Trinity has both religious studies and philosophy on their arts 'good' list.

bruffin Thu 22-Nov-12 08:05:07

William start a new thread, otherwise people will come along and answer the OP not realising this is old and not see your thread.

bengalcat Thu 22-Nov-12 22:20:48

Presume by triple science you mean physics , chemistry and biology as seoart GCSE's . If he were to drop anything would lose Economics and Citizenship . Better to hav fewer with top grades .

bengalcat Thu 22-Nov-12 22:22:10

Aargh meant have

BeckAndCall Fri 23-Nov-12 09:42:31


Current q is from William, about 4 or 5 posts up from here.

William, as Bruffin says, start a new thread and you'll get good answers on there! Welcome to mumsnet, btw

squeezedatbothends Fri 23-Nov-12 18:08:06

Piffle, not sure where you get your information from, but Philosphy is a very tough A level - well regarded by Oxbridge, where of course Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) is one of the most highly sought after and competitive courses! As for GCSE choices, as long as there is a range (Maths, Science, both Englishes, a Humanties subject and ideally a language, Universities are much more concerned with grades than subjects taken. If your child is interested in Science at Oxbridge, they must do triple Science. Oxford take a good look at GCSEs, Cambridge take a hard look at ASs and are less focused on GCSEs. Having said that, my son got into Oxford with 6A*, 3As and a B so they don't necessarily go for the 12a* kids - in fact many of his friends with better grades didn't get a place. It all came down to the interview in the end, so it's far better for your child to choose subjects they will enjoy, get the best grades they can and decide as soon as they can which subjects they want to do and immerse themselves in that subject with a passion. Oxbridge are not interested in the content of the A level - most questions will sit outside of that. They want evidence of wider reading, critical and connected thinking, and most of all a passion for a subject.

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